Monday, August 27, 2012

New £15.3m UK funding to support science in Africa

African science is to receive a £15.3 million boost thanks to a new partnership between the Royal Society and the Department for International Development (DFID). The funding will help setup a programme aimed at strengthening research and training capacity across sub-Saharan Africa by creating sustainable scientific networks.

The Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative will bring together scientists working across Africa with UK-based researchers. The initiative will focus on three priority areas that have been identified: water and sanitation; renewable energy; and soil-related research. The research consortia will ideally be cross-disciplinary, combining different types of expertise on a specific theme.
Phase one will see 20 start-up grants of £25,000 awarded, enabling interested parties to assemble research consortia and prepare applications for the subsequent programme grant scheme. A single round of applications will be opened on 1st November of this year.  In phase two up to 10 awards of just over £1.2 million over five years will be made. The awards will support research consortia consisting of one UK lab and three African labs. The first round of applications will be opened in 2013, the second in 2014.
The initiative will focus on three priority areas that have been identified: water and sanitation; renewable energy; and soil-related research. The research consortia will ideally be cross-disciplinary, combining different types of expertise on a specific theme.
The new scheme builds on the success of the Leverhulme – Royal Society Africa Awards launched in 2008 and emphasises the Royal Society’s already strong commitment to capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa.
Commenting on the Royal Society - DFID funding partnership, Professor Martyn Poliakoff, Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, said:
“The ability to share scientific knowledge and expertise is vitally important to development in Africa and the world over. The Royal Society is delighted to be partnering with DFID in what is a very important scheme. Not only will we be strengthening Africa-UK research links but more importantly we will assist in creating sustainable and valuable relationships between African institutions.”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

More US universities embrace online education

It was an exciting moment when MIT and Harvard University both announced that they would be collaborating with edX to begin offering free online courses to anyone with an internet connection and a desire to begin enhancing their education, but the $60 million initiative is not the only platform for free online education; a few other organizations have also joined in on all of the fun.
The Rise of the MOOC’s
MOOC’s, or massive open online courses, have become the newest craze to hit the online world, with organizations such as Udacity and Coursera joining the ranks. Some of the top universities all over the world are collaborating with these platforms to add their own courses to the mix, and the are all available at no cost. At the moment, Coursera boasts around 100 courses, which are being offered by 16 universities, and it has already passed the 1 million mark in terms of users. Udacity, on the other hand, boasts over 700,000 users, although most of its offerings focus more on the field of computer sciences.
Online Education Set to Take Over the World
While there are many universities who have already signed up to offer courses of their own, there are more than 120 more that are considering taking the final steps to do the same through a collaboration with edX. In the fall, the courses will open and students will be able to choose courses from three different institutions; MIT, Harvard and Berkley. It is clear that the organization is considering increasing their offerings by adding courses from a range of universities in the near future, although when this is going to take place is yet to be announced.
there are more than 120 more that are considering taking the final steps to do the same through a collaboration with edX
Students Choosing Their Courses
As it stands, edX will offer courses ranging from the field of computer sciences to courses within the medical field. Those that have studied online in the past will find it easier to navigate the system, participate in the discussion groups and develop their own learning schedule, and so this should not be as big of an adjustment for them.
Open Source Learning
The platform itself is built with open source software, which means that a community of users can add to it, increasing its efficiency and adding new features which will enhance the overall experience of the users. During the initial phases, a lot of attention will be paid to the efficiency with which the courses are offered, as well as any issues that students might come across as they take advantage of the courses; once these “bugs” have been identified and dealt with, there is no knowing just how influential these courses might be to those looking to study, as well as those that are already taking a qualification and would like to supplement their knowledge of a course; the possibilities are endless.
The first course will begin on September 3rd, and so prospective students might want to start sharpening their pencils and getting their thinking caps on, because this new platform is set to take the world of online education by storm, and the chances are, they are going to succeed.


Monday, August 20, 2012

IBM first Africa lab to open in Kenya

IBM is set to open a research laboratory in Kenya, the first in Africa, in a joint venture with the government.
The facility is expected to drive Kenya’s transition to a modern services economy through research into age-old problems like traffic congestion, low agricultural productivity and slow public service delivery.
“Kenya’s vision is to become the top hub in the continent. IBM’s commitment to undertake the proposed research agenda will contribute greatly to our national priorities as part of Vision 2030,” said President Mwai Kibaki when he signed the agreement for setting up the laboratory with IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty.
Intellectual property in form of innovation from the facility will be shared between Kenya and IBM.
The laboratory, which will serve all local universities, starts operations next month at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
The research facility becomes the 12th in the world after those in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland and the US.
IBM laboratories have been credited for many innovations in information technology, including the invention of relational database, disk storage and DRAM memory. The company has won five Nobel prizes.The initiative is part of IBM’s strategy to grow its dominance in Kenya and the region.
Some of the research areas that the IBM research centre will cover include next generation public sector, smarter cities and human capacity development by boosting the innovation and engaging entrepreneurs. “We see significant growth in Africa and specifically Kenya. It makes sense to invest here,” said Mr Tony Mwai, the country general manager at IBM East Africa.
Under the agreement, the government will contribute $2 million (Ksh169 million) for the next five years, while IBM will provide the hardware, software and high-end scientific expertise.
Speaking at the press briefing, the IBM vice-president, Dr Robert Moris, said: “I don’t have the exact amount of what IBM will invest in the lab, but it is a significant part of our research investment which is $ 6.5 billion.”
Kenya’s contribution will be spent on utility bills and paying local researchers. The facility is also expected to create employment opportunities for the youth.
“We spend a lot of resources on business process outsourcing to create few jobs, now we can create jobs here locally and we may start looking into the other African countries,” said Information PS Bitange Ndemo

By Galgallo Fayo

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Deeper Life Church massacre and the rest of us

One of the victims
They were in church listening to the word of God. Three different districts converged on a location because the service was by satellite transmission. There was no premonition of danger as the atmosphere steeped in specious breath. Many of them just returned from their places of work and although fatigued, they still found time to be at the evening service. A few who came late hurriedly sandwiched themselves into empty backseats to avoiding causing distractions. Their pastor was nearing the end of his life-streamed teaching, when there was a power cut. Many of them gasped, PHCN will not let them enjoy their Bible study. So, they thought. Suddenly, they heard confused shouts at the gate. “We are here to finish off all of you”, a husky voice hollered, impelling them to lie flat on the floor. Hails of bullets ricocheted the aisles and pews in a war fashion, riddling frightened bodies. Shrieks and growls in the throes of death with last-minute meditative spasms followed. Fresh hot blood gushed out from ruptured veins, splattering opened Bibles. It’s another murder in the cathedral. Dead silence. Forced eternity.
That may depict the sad fate of the twenty people who recently lost their lives in yet another gruesome onslaught by some “unidentified gun-men” whose mode of operation is not in doubt. Report has it that some of the worshippers who scuttled out searching for escape routes were apprehended and their throat slit in a bloody flash.  One can at best imagine the thoughts that ran through their minds in that deciding moment of their existence. Many of them must have been anguished by the irretrievable reality of being the next victim of Boko Haram.
The reaction so far has been less impressive as in past cases where top government officials perfunctorily visit the site of the murder with their entourage as if on a tourist stroll and dish out mindless condolences with empty threats and uninspiring promises.
We are getting used to this ritual of enraging graveyard elocution which has continued to advertise failure of government in performing its primary constitutional duty of safeguarding lives. 
Sometimes to save their face, some rouges are paraded before television cameras typical of a circus show, we hear no more about it. In other climes, situations like this would have led to massive revolt that could topple an incumbent for repeated breach of the social contract bond. But Nigerians are the happiest people on earth just as the Global Peace Index tips us as the 6th most dangerous country in Africa, coming behind war-torn Somalia and Sudan. We are happy but insecure.
A church bombed recently in Jos
But everybody cannot be happy. The families of victims of Boko Haram’s numerous bloody blasts and booms cannot be happy. Christians in general who appear the prime target in this apocalypse cannot be happy. They now live in fear and suspicion that make worship a charade. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as a body cannot be happy as evidenced by some of its critical releases in recent times.
A serious cause for concern however is the rather uncoordinated reaction of Christendom to these consistent attacks. Denominational and doctrinal differences which have often created wedge among religious leaders and invariably their teeming followers in the past have precluded a clear-cut, agreed solution. While a group thinks defensive and retaliatory might should be employed to repel the confrontations, another believes an eye for an eye will only make the world blind and hence says Christians should rather pray for the enemies; no fight back. A radical set dismisses both approaches as unintelligent and advices Christians to bear their cross fatefully and faithfully, because theirs is a fait accompli. Its end-time and things like these are bound to happen. In other words, Boko Haram can continue to enter churches and blast the pulpit and the pews unchallenged.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Boko Haram kill 19 at church bible study in Kogi

Three men came to the church just before Bible study began, but instead of joining the worship service they opened fire, killing at least 19 people in an attack that shows that violence already seen elsewhere in the divided nation is spreading.
Witnesses and the military described a chaotic, blood-soaked scene at the Deeper Life church in Otite, a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city of Okene, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Nigeria's capital Abuja.

Two gunmen believed to be members of the Boko Haram sect sprayed the windowless sanctuary Monday night with fire from Kalashnikov assault rifles
Two gunmen believed to be members of the Boko Haram sect sprayed the windowless sanctuary Monday night with fire from Kalashnikov assault rifles, said Lt. Col. Gabriel Olorunyomi, the head of a local joint army and police unit. Another armed man stayed back and switched off the generator providing lights in the church, leaving those inside unable to flee as the gunfire flashed through the darkness, witness Lawan Saliu said. Saliu spoke from a hospital bed Tuesday after sustaining a gunshot wound to his stomach.
It remained unclear how many people were wounded in the attack. Olorunyomi said some of the injured sought care in hospitals, while others remained at home. A rescue official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as officials had yet to publicly release casualty numbers, said there likely were less than 20 people wounded in the attack.